This 2004 Jacob Estes film is an anti-'Stand By Me,' taking a nuanced look at teen bullying and weaving a small-town tragedy around it. Rory Culkin is excellent as the shrimpy Sam, but Josh Peck as George is incredible in the tricky role of a bullying chubster lured to the woods to be taught a lesson by Sam's older brother, Rocky (Trevor Morgan), and his friends. They plan to get him to strip in a game of truth or dare, throw him in the river, then make him run home naked. The kids begin to get cold feet when they realise that under George's obnoxious exterior lies an essentially decent human being, albeit one whose pitiable lack of social skills makes kindness and compassion difficult. Via the cinematography of Sharone Meir, 'Mean Creek' may look like a Larry Clark film, but it's nowhere near as nasty or depressingly mean-spirited as something like, say, 'Bully'.
'ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL'
Hollywood studios love adapting Young Adult fiction novels for the screen, because more often than not, they have a guaranteed audience and will make a lot of money. 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl', based off a novel by Jesse Andrews, did no such thing. Instead, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon ('The Current War'
) opted to display a stylised and original portrayal of the story, a decision that still has an impact to this day, although little box office to show for it.
This film follows Greg (Thomas Mann, 'Project X'), who is forced by his mother to befriend Rachel (Olivia Cooke, 'Thoroughbreds'), a classmate of his diagnosed with leukemia. Greg would rather be invisible than be disliked or mislabeled, something which many teens struggle with on a daily basis. Visiting Rachel and striking up a friendship with her goes against everything he tries to be, and results in his emotions being challenged.
'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' explores the importance of friendship and the impact we can have on those around us, for how we perceive ourselves is not always how we are seen by others. Whilst this film plays with familiar teen film tropes, it always feels fresh and creative, and not at all emotionally manipulative, which says a lot considering I cry every time I watch it. It's charming, sweet, and best of all, its stylised techniques never detract from its heart, allowing the natural and sincere friendship to breathe. For me, this is the best teen film to be released this decade, maybe longer.
READ OUR REVIEW
'THE BREAKFAST CLUB'
Our Father, who art in heaven, John Hughes by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it was in the 80s. The King, the Maestro, the auteur, John Hughes didn't just make a teen movie - he made the
teen movie. This is the film that defined the genre and
the era. Giving rise to the Brat Pack 'The Breakfast Club' deals with bullying, suicide, social outcasts, cliques, domestic violence, sex, drugs, the pressure to succeed socially, scholastically and athletically, and he handled it all with brevity, levity, humility and earnest. For the casual observer, 'The Breakfast Club' is simply some great one-liners and one of the most iconic dance montages ever. For others, in the thick of these predicaments whether that be abstractly or specifically, it's so much more. It says everything we can't... or couldn't. Amen.READ OUR REVIEW
One of the biggest crimes of the 2010s is how often 'Easy A' is forgotten. The story of how an "anonymous" highschooler found notoriety thanks to a little white lie made its then rising lead star, Emma Stone, a household name. What's so great about 'Easy A' is how well it keeps its freshness even after a decade (and how it had me trying to spell naughty words with my vegetables for months after I first saw it). It's a sharp, witty, incredibly quotable and downright hilarious skewering of sexuality, gender and the teen movie genre, acknowledging how its influences shape it without becoming a facsimile of those films itself.
'SHE'S THE MAN'
When it comes to making Shakespeare "cool" for the kids, the noughties was a golden age of adaption. While people look at Baz Lurhman's 'Romeo + Juliet'
and '10 Things I Hate About You'
, the cherry on the proverbial cake was none other than 'She's The Man', a brilliantly funny reimagining of 'Twelfth Night.'
Not only was it a golden age of teen Shakespeare adaption, but it was also the golden age of Amanda Bynes' comedy career. She is so, so funny and when partnered with Channing Tatum brings out the best in both. This teen film is incredibly quotable, rewatchable and digestable. I was and still am obsessed with it, and it's something my close group of friends and I still quote and reminisce on to this day. Fun, "educational" and incredibly enjoyable, 'She's the Man' is impossible to go past.
CHRIS DOS SANTOS
'10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU'
This is to be one of the best examples of how to do a teen rom-com; the film is adorable and hilarious. In this modern version of 'Taming of the Shrew', Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wants to date Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), but she isn't allowed to date until her older sister, Kat (Julia Stiles) finds a boyfriend. Cameron pays bad boy Patrick (Heath Ledger) to charm her, but in the process they both fall for each other. You know all the iconic moments - Patrick singing 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You', Kat's speech, any scene with Allison Janney, the paintball scene, even things as little as Patrick playing with fire have made this film stand out in the teen movie category. Curl up on your couch, fall in love with Heath Ledger again, and enjoy the ultimate teen film.READ OUR REVIEW
'THE PRINCESS DIARIES'
The greatest thing Gary Marshall ever did for this world (apart from 'Pretty Woman'
) was to pair Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews together in a kick-ass, classic teen-comedy! If you haven't already seen this, it's an absolute must. If it's been a while, you'll rewatch it with great nostalgia, and if it's one of your favourites, you'll be nodding and agreeing with me through every word of this recommendation. What I don't think this movie gets enough credit for is its ability to inject the fantasies of our childhood into the complications of being a teenager! It's relatable in that every little girl daydreams they'll be told they're a princess, but cements the story around family and high school. It's nice to know that most girls watched this film and found it charming, an instant 2000s gem, but absolutely no-one called it lame - because the feeling still resonates that we once, and still secretly do, want our mysterious grandmother to turn up asking for help in assuming the throne for a foreign country we know nothing of! And let's be honest... anything with Julie Andrews in it is *chef's kiss*.
CHARLIE DAVID PAGE
'REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE'
This may be the original
teen movie; it wasn't until 'Happy Days' that the idea of a teenager was really introduced into the zeitgeist. James Dean's timeless portrayal as angsty adolescent Jim Stark is legendary, the actor leaving a monumental mark in just three feature films before his untimely death. As Jim befriends Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato (Sal Mineo), they discover their own utopia before outside forces tear everything down. This trio play wonderfully off each other, offering a rich and scintillating portrayal of teens and breathing truth and honesty into a raw and unprecedented screenplay. It's a classic which has stood the test of time for one good reason: the perils of adolescence are something we all experience, regardless of the era we grow up in.
If the 90s were a kind of golden age for teen films, then Alexander Payne's 1999 classic 'Election' was both their apex and a perfect satire of them, applying the cutthroat violence of politics to the machinations of a student council election. All of the comfortable elements of the teen film are there, but much the same way that Olivia Wilde would in her masterpiece 'Booksmart'
, those elements are raised to the operatic, in some ways taking the teen films of the 90s to their logical conclusion. It's thrilling, subversive, wickedly funny, unexpectedly devastating and utterly iconoclastic, a perfect (and debatably more accurate) time capsule of the teen experience of the time. But if you need one reason to see it, 'Election' sees Reese Witherspoon deliver her greatest performance as the maniacally ambitious Tracy Flick. It's absolutely legendary.
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